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Windswept Snow to Close Out 2011 in Upper Midwest

By By Kristina Pydynowski, Senior Meteorologist
January 01, 2012, 7:18:56 AM EST

Windswept snow marking the leading edge of a bitter blast of cold air will shift from the Rockies to the Upper Midwest as 2011 comes to a close.

A potent storm will continue to race from the Rockies to the Great Lakes this New Year's Eve with its cold front opening the door to the depths of the Arctic.

By the time the ball drops in New York City's Times Square, disruptive snow will spread to northern Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Minneapolis and Duluth are among the cities in the Upper Midwest set to start 2012 on a snowy note, creating headaches for motorists traveling to or from festivities tonight.

While the snow failed to accumulate significantly across the Rockies, the storm will have more moisture to work with as it heads eastward. Snow totals near Lake Superior will approach 6 inches.

It is not just accumulating snow that threatens to ruin the holiday. These areas could have near-blizzard conditions at times with very strong winds reducing visibility to a mile or less.

Those who will be out and about across the Upper Midwest this weekend should use caution and be prepared for slower travel on roadways.


Howling winds will not be confined to places receiving snow this New Year's Eve. Fierce winds will expand across more of the northern and central Plains through tonight, gusting to 50 mph at times.

Stronger gusts will continue to blast the northern and central High Plains today.

"The wind will feel nasty and the gusts will border on damaging velocities in open areas and between buildings," stated Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

The strength of the winds could also overturn or steer semi-trucks and campers off roadways. Even drivers of smaller trucks and cars will feel the winds tug on their vehicles.

As the winds usher in arctic air, RealFeel® temperatures will plummet below zero by midnight tonight from eastern Montana to northern Minnesota.

Subzero RealFeel temperatures will then grip the Upper Midwest throughout New Year's Day and Monday.

Cold of this caliber is dangerous, meaning football fans headed to Lambeau Field to watch the Green Bay Packers take on the Detroit Lions on Sunday should not be shy about bundling up.

The combination of the bitter cold and biting winds will also cause 2012 to start with a significant lake-effect snow event downwind of the Great Lakes. Meteorologist Mark Miller contributed to the content of this story.

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